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Yak - Quest for the Stones CD (album) cover




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5 stars Well . What a great surprise. A very important evolution since their last work.

This album seems to be the middle work of Genesis between Wind and Wuthering and Then There Were Three...(without vocals) They should have contacted Phil Collins(sadly his voice is weal now) and put vocals to this one.

A very inspirited album .Specially the first song... So if this would been a Genesis album (W& W Collins era) surely a masterpiece ... It is still one but is so inspired in that Genesis works that is not so original.

So fantastic ,pleasant symphonic prog rock . 4.5 stars for me one half more in stars score.

Report this review (#1454879)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars "This Yak has reached maturity"

I've been following YAK since 2004 when they released the surprising Dark Side of the Duck, an album I left in the shelve for several months because of the horrendous name (Who could imagine that an album with such a title would be so good?) and I was impressed. Years later Martin Morgan contacted me for the release of The Journey of the Yak, which was even better, but even though they were close, the status of masterpiece kept avoiding their records.

Yesterday received a copy of Quest for the Stones and my first thought was:

"A Symphonic album with only two epics in 2015? This guys must be crazy"

But now I say pleased: "This is the kind of madness I love".

Since then I have heard it 10 times because it's like a refreshing trip to the 70's when Prog was king and musicians weren't afraid of being called pompous and self-indulgent by mediocre critics, so before boring the readers, let's go to the music

The album has only two instrumental tracks and is opened by the 24 minutes epic Quest for the Stones, a musical piece that has everything that a Prog fan like me loves, long and fluid keyboard solos with radical changes and a "Marvelous real" atmosphere in the vein of Borges or Garcí­a Marquez stories that captured me from the start. They are not afraid to play long Mellotron sections that recreate the spirit of the Symphonic golden era without any shame...And I love them for taking that risk.

The second epic Veil of Aeternum (19:25) maintains the atmosphere and the style, but has clear influence from GENESIS (Wind & Wuthering era) but with a different approach that prevents people of calling them clones. The music again is mysterious and carries some sort of magic in a story told out without words, which I won't try to describe to avoid the risk of ruining the musical experience of others?.Will only say that loved it from the first to the last note.

It's my opinion that Quest for the Stones is the best album that the band has ever released and the first one that I will rate with 5 solid stars, so..... If you're a fan of 70's Symphonic Prog with a modern edge, buy this album, you won't regret, and remember, it's for a good cause, because the money you pay goes for "Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary".

Report this review (#1455219)
Posted Friday, August 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Seeing Ivan Melgar (for whom I have immense respect)'s five star review for this album intrigued my enough to prompt me to seek it out. Now I have gotten to know the album a little bit, so I feel ready to voice my opinion. Yak seems to have captured some of the essence of late 1970s GENESIS and CAMEL--melody and sound, not necessarily musical complexity. As a matter of fact, some of the foundational music sounds so rudimentary as if it was constructed purely to serve as a vehicle upon which melody and guitar and keyboard soli can shine (which they do fairly well). This is, for me, a treacherous slope, as I want my progressive rock music to to feel as if all instrumentalists are equal contributors to both composition and exposition. Even iconic instrumental virtuosi like John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty or Al Di Meola surround themselves with near equals and compose for the exposure and exploitation of the full talents of their sidemen. (Usually.) Perhaps I am wrong to try to put Martin MORGAN on that level (Is he ONLY a keyboardist as listed above? If so, how does he make all those keyboards sound like guitars?), but I find myself bored and disappointed in the simplicity of the four-chord foundations to each of the suites' multiple sections (which often drag on a bit too long, IMHO) as well as the simplicity of the work load demanded of his rhythm section. Martin has managed to create some wonderful, engaging melodies over these simple foundations, but, it's kind of like listening to TONY BANKS or GENESIS with all of the lyrics removed or the watered down version of CAMEL after Doug FERGUSON and Pete BARDENS had left. In my opinion, this band (or its leader) has some growing to do before it produces masterpieces of the quality and caliber of the other five star albums in PA's Top 100. This is a very good album, a very pleasant listen that takes one on a nice fantasy ride (or two), but no more. 3.5 stars, rated down for lack of anything truly new or innovative.
Report this review (#1467940)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars YAK are a British band that have been around since the early eighties but because of "life" this project was put aside until they released their first album in 2004. These guys have a sense of humour as witnessed in the title of that first album "Dark Side Of The Duck" and a later record "Does Your Yak Bite?". I agree with the majority that the all instrumental music here has a CAMEL/ GENESIS vibe as in "Snowgoose" and "Wind And Wuthering" but no not nearly as complex or enjoyable and i'm not big on either of those classic albums which is maybe in part why I can't get into this one. It just lacks anything thing that tugs at my emotions. I did think of Mike Oldfield but maybe only because this has two side long suites and it's all instrumental. There's certainly not the array of instruments that Oldfield employed as this is a three piece with drums, bass and keyboards.

Like Drew i'm a little confused that they don't have guitar listed as part of the instruments used here as i'm sure I hear plenty of that in the title track. Maybe it's a guitar-like sound that they get through the keyboards? Anyway i'm not a fan of it whatever it is. I much prefer the second suite called "Vale Of Aeternum". It opens with the birds chirping and mellotron-like sounds. Those guitar-like sounds arrive around 2 1/2 minutes in. The bass stands out a little more a minute later. We get a calm with mellotron-like sounds as these two themes are repeated later on as well.

Obviously there are many fans of this Symphonic album but the keyboard sounds just don't do a lot for me, still I can appreciate what they've done here so 3 stars it is.

Report this review (#1475832)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yak is back. I now, corny! After reading the recent reviews (both the 5 and 3 star ones) as well as reminiscing on the quality of their previous release, the eventful 2008 'Journey of the Yak', I went out to add this to my purchases, pretty confident in nailing another winner. Just to witness a 2 track album that runs 45 minutes was enough to get me enthused further. Yak remains the brainchild of composer and keyboard maestro Martin Morgan, ably supported by drummer Dave Speight and bassist Gary Bennett. Morgan is a virtuoso who can handle a wide variety of keys but what makes him somewhat original is his use of an electric guitar patch that gives his ivories a powerful tone. He also uses a flute patch to great effect. Comparisons to Genesis (in its instrumental packaging) as well as Camel is utterly founded and unashamedly so. Reliant on synthesizers, piano, organ and that guitar solo sound, Morgan really gives the production a full and meaty palette, well anchored by the more than able rhythm section.

The first epic, the 23 minute 'Quest for the Stones', opens on a soundtrack-ish tangent, very orchestral and sorrowful, then shuffles along majestically, cresting and diving then swooping around for another loop, keeping things intense and interesting throughout. There are no gratuitous exhibitions of technical prowess, instead relying on emotional impact and symphonic tolerance, evident on the elegant piano passages that litter the arrangement. Bennett's bass rolls alongside like a true partner in crime. Old school prog chock full of nostalgic winks and nods, bubbly synthesized passages that soar, scream and wallow on multiple levels, exuding a strong audacity and flowing change.

The second and final track is an outright classic as 'Veils of Aeternum' is probably closer to vintage Steve Hackett, very propulsive and bright, loaded with a ton of solos that sound like the Hacker, slippery and tone conscious. Some cool bass slapping from Bennett that comes from out of nowhere, always challenging and never boring. Flute frills and pastoral pools of reflection add to the mystery.

Not overtly long by any stretch (pun intended), the album has a fine flow and is perfect reflective instrumental prog. They reinvent nothing, nor do they claim to aspire to anything else , only improving a style that has had a lot of staying power over the decades. The cover art is quite humorous as one can clearly detect a mighty knight in flashy armor, sitting atop his trusted yak, whilst refreshing itself in a Sherwoodian brook. A solid follow-up and a worthy addition to any collection.

Short, compact review for a short and compact album.

4 Pursuit of Nuggets

Report this review (#1479487)
Posted Monday, October 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yak have been putting out a string of releases that have essentially consisted of them struggling to find their feet. The unexpected success of Dark SIde of the Duck - essentially a solo project by Martin Morgan putting some old Yak compositions on record for posterity's sake - saw a brief experiment in the old line-up getting back together which yielded a couple of inessential oddities (Does Your Yak Bite? and The Rutland Chronicles) before they went their separate ways again. Journey of the Yak was essentially a blueprint for Yak Mk. II, with new collaborators Gary Bennett and Dave Speight signing on and a new Yak lineup solidifying in the process of recording the pieces there.

With this album, everything seems to have finally come together for Yak, with a stable lineup allowing them to bring to fruition a newly matured sound in the form of two epic pieces (they'd be side-long numbers in the days of vinyl) which take Yak's all-instrumental Camel-inspired style to new heights. Perfectly matching the high fantasy concepts their titles suggest, the pieces feature excellent keyboard work from Morgan who really has space to stretch out his wings here - no doubt to the surprise of anyone who thought that yaks couldn't fly. All the hard work of previous albums has yielded fruit here, and the end result is magnificent.

Report this review (#1560525)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was one of those who put in a pre-order for Quest for the Stones, Yak's 2015 follow-up to the sublime Journey of the Yak and, despite a last minute hold-up from the CD manufacturer that delayed its delivery to Martin Morgan, keyboard player and keeper of the Yak flame, it duly arrived in the same week as promised. How could I not like Yak? This is keyboard-led instrumental progressive rock par excellence that references Tolkien and CS Lewis and has been endorsed by Steve Hackett. I first saw adverts for Journey of the Yak in early editions of Prog magazine and ordered my copy after hearing portions of a couple of selections from the website, donating '10 to the Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary in return for the CD (a second pressing dated November 2009) and then spreading the word as best I could, buying a copy for one of my brothers and encouraging friends to give them a listen.

The trio of Morgan, Dave Speight (drums) and Gary Bennett (bass) produce a melodic blend of prog that occupies the same territory as Steve Hackett, Genesis just before the departure of Hackett, Camel and Danger Money conformation UK. To anyone who hasn't heard any Yak, suggesting that a keyboard trio sounds like Steve Hackett may appear far-fetched but Morgan employs a synthesizer patch that genuinely sounds like Hackett's portamento guitar.

Quest for the Stones carries on where Journey of the Yak left off though the six longish tracks that featured on Journey have been replaced by two long-form compositions, Quest for the Stones at a couple of seconds short of 24 minutes and Veil of Aeternum which lasts over 19 minutes. Veil of Aeternum is a play on words on Aeternum vale (Latin: farewell forever) and there is a very strong stylistic link between the two albums. The music on Quest is instantly recognisable as being Yak. The blend of old and new keyboard technology gives some haunting Mellotron sounds and some classic synth and organ tones; there's slightly less organ on the new album but the technique and attack still remind me of Eddie Jobson. The inclusion of more piano, together with the cover artwork gives an overall feel of a piece of late 19th Century or early 20th Century Romantic music, quintessentially English, where melodic motifs line up in succession and the pastoral impression is further bolstered by natural sounds at the end of the title track.

Although there aren't many quiet interludes, variation comes through multiple changes of tempo and there are even a couple of passages in 7/4 time. Morgan adds keyboard saxophone to his sonic armoury and Gary Bennett, who is solid and mostly understated throughout, adds some funky bass lines. It goes without saying that the drumming of Dave Speight, former band mate of Enid alumnus Nick May in symphonic prog outfit Whimwise, is absolutely perfect so it comes across as a bit of a surprise that the three musicians only get together for a few days once every six years or so to record an album.

The title track on the new release revisits another familiar Yak theme, another reason why they're my kind of band: ley lines. (There's another Yak release from October 2005, a live jam called Does Your Yak Bite? which includes the piece Leylines of Yak. The sleeve notes for the new album refer to finding a significant monolith, the Easedale Yakstone in Langdale - This all sounds good to me because I'm a native of Cumbria from just outside the Lake District National Park.)

There's yet another association between the live jam CD and Quest for the Stones that relates to the rather exquisite pre-Raphaelite style cover painting by Laura Knight that depicts an Arthurian hero on a quest for The Stones astride his trusty yak but close by, hiding behind a tree, there's a strange, stripy rabbit-like creature, Tog, from the BBC children's series Pogles' Wood made by Oliver Postgate's Smallfilms between 1966 and 1968. Tog, formerly a stuffed toy brought to life by magic in a battle to defeat the Witch (a character who appears in series forerunner The Pogles), is given a credit on the back of the CD for co-owning the copyright to the recording; Does Your Yak Bite? includes a track called The Battle of Pogles Wood.

The sense of humour displayed in the sleeve notes has historic precedence. Prog bands may have been derided for being serious about their music but Pythonesque absurdity made its way onto releases by bands like Hatfield and the North and Michael Palin actually wrote the back sleeve notes for Do They Hurt? by Brand X. Take note, NME, humour and serious musicianship are not mutually exclusive.

The excellent, bucolic Quest for the Stones can be obtained from the Yak website and, like that for its predecessor (which can still be bought from the website) the purchase is actually a donation to the Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. If you love melodic, instrumental prog featuring lots of keyboards, I'd recommend you make that donation: you get a brilliant album in return.

I think this is an excellent addition to any prog collection and easily deserves four and a half stars

Report this review (#2404188)
Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2020 | Review Permalink

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